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The tournament dates back to 1932. Heavy rains and flooding washed out the roads in 1938. The tournament that year was delayed and then cancelled but it resumed again in 1939.
The tournament has been through many changes over the 80 years. Some schools have not participated at different times. Of course over the years some schools have consolidated and closed. I thought it was interesting that one school was never invited to participate, Douglass High School, (1936-1956).
Pocola High School was established in 1939 and Arkoma in 1975.
In the past Monroe, Fanshawe, and Muse participated in the tournament.
In the 1980’s Talihina withdrew from the tournament due to match ups and seedings in the first round.
Then in the late 1980’s the tournament almost died due to the single elimination format. This problem was fixed when coaches and athletic directors threatened to withdraw from the tournament. The superintendants and administrators resolved the problem. The consolation bracket was added in 1990.
All 13 schools were guaranteed at least two games. Half the schools and sometimes as many as eight to 10 schools in the boys or girls brackets were still in the tournament on Thursday and Friday.
This meant that more schools were involved in the tournament with extended sub-sites. Host schools began to see the financial upside to the tournament with gate receipts at that time up to $20,000-$25,000 before expenses.
Now the 40- game tournament, played at three sites over a six-day period, has once again made it the “Biggest sports event of year” in LeFlore County.
Carl Albert State College in Poteau was the host site for finals and semifinals every year since 1976. Before that the finals and semifinals were held at the host schools. Carl Albert State College was a great neutral site for the tournament. During the remodeling at the college 400 seats were lost. This lead to Poteau and Arkoma moving the tournament to Fort Smith in 2009 and 2010. The host schools had to pay the University of Arkansas Fort Smith a fee each night.
This sparked the controversy over where to hold the tournament for the last few years. Local citizens and business owners voiced their opinions that the LeFlore County Tournament should stay in LeFlore County.
I have voiced my opinion that the tournament should stay in the county and in the state. The businesses, especially restaurants and convenience stores benefit from the boost in sales during the tournament.
The Spiro Multi-Purpose Building officially opened in January 2009. Spiro was the host school last year with the finals and semi finals played in the Multi-purpose building. The facility was never filled to capacity, with empty seats as fans rotated in and out after each game. It was the same situation this year, there was enough seating. The Spiro facility is quite nice and I am thankful that it is in LeFlore County.
I still have people commenting to me about the new Donald W Reynolds Center that recently opened in Poteau. Many people still believe it should have been a sporting facility. So this is a good time to put this information out there again. The grant for the Reynolds Center specifically stated that it could NOT be used for a sporting facility.
Bokoshe High School was the host school this year and did a great job. The host school rotates each year with Wister being the host for next year. Wister schools tentatively plans for it to stay in the county.
Thanks again Mr. Clark for the handout with the history of the tournament.
Congratulations to all the champions and runners up this year. I watched some exciting games and saw some very talented kids from all over the county.
Until next week…